Resist “Prayer Shaming” This Thanksgiving

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Painting:  Monk in Prayer by Édouard Manet, 1865 [Museum of Fine Arts, Boston]

By Clemente Lisi,  The Catholic Thing, Nov. 16, 2017

Clemente LisiThanksgiving and prayer are intimately linked. While the holiday – just a week away now – has its roots in Protestant England (the very first Thanksgiving in 1621 was held by the Pilgrims who fled Europe seeking religious freedom), Americans of all faiths have since embraced this uniquely American holiday of giving thanks to God.

You wouldn’t know this from how the mainstream media has generally chosen to cover it in recent years. Thanksgiving has lost its religious meaning – many people don’t offer a prayer before addressing the turkey – and has been replaced with a focus on football games and Black Friday shopping. Christmas, unfortunately, has also become less about Jesus and more about consumerism. It’s part of a larger trend whereby our society becomes gradually secularized, even on explicitly religious holidays. And prayer, so central to the lives of millions of Americans, is invisible to those who deliver the news to you each day.

The primary reason is that there’s no room for piety in an America where the far Left – with complicity from the press – seeks to reengineer our country’s traditions and morals. It’s been shown beyond all doubt that the MSM are largely agnostic – even anti-religious – and favor political correctness. Try an experiment: Scan your local newspaper or watch the TV news; you’d think Thanksgiving was about people looking for deals at the mall. Yes, there is the occasional feel-good story about food drives, but those have more to do with charity than prayer.

The coverage ignoring the true meaning of Thanksgiving (and the religious life of so many everyday Americans) is due to the dangerous trend by media outlets of “prayer shaming.” If you admit to praying on social media, then you are ridiculed. Emma Green, writing for The Atlantic, first coined the phrase “praying shaming” in 2015: “Democrats care about doing something and taking action while Republicans waste time offering meaningless prayers. These two reactions, policy-making and praying, are portrayed as mutually exclusive, coming from totally contrasting worldviews.” Mainstream news outlets such as Slate, Esquire, and the Huffington Post have all run articles giving “prayer shaming” a thumbs up.

The issue came to the forefront in the aftermath of the San Bernardino shootings in 2015 and again recently following the Las Vegas massacre. Several Republican presidential candidates – including Ted Cruz, Lindsey Graham, and Rand Paul – offered “thoughts and prayers.” The New York Daily News ran a front-page headline that encapsulated the anti-prayer mood: “God Isn’t Fixing This.” Below that was: “As latest batch of innocent Americans are left lying in pools of blood, cowards who could truly end gun scourge continue to hide behind meaningless platitudes.”

Mature believers know, however, that God isn’t there simply to fix things. God has given all of us free will to choose right and wrong. The Bible teaches Christians to pray as an act of praise and obedience. It is how we communicate with the Lord. People who have replaced God with self-centeredness and self-help books see things differently. They think Christians believe in a God who is like a genie, there to grant wishes to believers.

People in positions of power in media organizations have a different take: they see prayer as an excuse for inaction. People who resist even stricter gun control measures while also praying for peace in a time of tragedy, must be hypocrites – uncaring, ignorant fools who offer just talk in times of distress. Left-wing orthodoxy considers praying an empty gesture to hide behind. Because it’s the state that is most important to our everyday lives, not religion. Government is almighty, not God.

The mainstream press largely adheres to that notion. This country’s major news divisions do stories every day taking the side of people they deem as needing to be promoted. Members of the LGBTQ community, for example, are a protected, even a celebrated, class. Negativity towards adherents of Islam, especially after a terror attack, is not to be tolerated. For the media, “trans” people need to be defended – and we can all use any bathroom we choose.

Disagree with any of this and you are a bigot. Muslims can be devout – but not Christians. Argue that Muslims should do more to stop religious zealots in their midst, then you are an Islamaphobe.

This is all behavior the media deem as “bullying.” Express such views and you’ll also be tagged as a bigot. The San Bernardino shooting was committed by two Muslims – husband-and-wife attackers inspired by ISIS – but there was no mention of them on that now-famous Daily News front page. People praying for peace have become the problem, not those committing crimes.

The same can be said for believing Catholics. You tweet out your “thoughts and prayers” following a tragedy (while also supporting the Second Amendment), then there is something wrong with you.

The people in the newsrooms now believe that they are the arbiters of which parts of the Constitution should be defended. The First Amendment right to a free press is rightly celebrated (because it protects their jobs). But the section on religious freedom is not – is sometimes even characterized as a cover for “bigotry.” The Second Amendment right to bear arms legally is also a no-go, another part of the Constitution many journalists ignore, because they believe guns are the root of all evil.

They don’t want to hear about your “thoughts and prayers.”

Here’s one way to take action: pray that your local newspaper and TV station don’t engage in prayer shaming the next time there’s a massacre. If they do, boycott that station or cancel your newspaper subscription. That’s one call to action that will have an impact.

After all, our freedom to pray is a right we should defend – and be thankful for – when we gather around the Thanksgiving table.


Clemente Lisi is an Assistant Professor of Journalism at The King’s College in New York City. He has nearly twenty years experience as both a reporter and editor at media institutions such as the New York Post, ABC News, and the New York Daily News.